Seed-to-School inspires, equips, and supports educators in teaching the importance and relevance of seeds and seed saving.
Seed-to-School’s vision is that one day every citizen will be informed of where their food comes from – beyond the grocery store, beyond the farmer’s market, beyond the farm… from seeds!
To provide educators with creative resources in order for them to integrate seeds and seed saving into classroom learning.
As a result of providing educators with seeds, resources, and lesson plans….
- Students will engage with plants in a new way by observing the complete life cycle of various crops
- Students will make unique connections between classroom learning and seed-related hands-on activities
- Students will take lessons home and begin their own seed-starting or seed-saving activities with their families
- Teachers will utilize modifiable lesson plans with a compact set of materials to make seed education available and accessible
- A network of seed educators and students will be created to facilitate sharing of seeds, resources, and learning
- Community members will support the garden programs through sales of seedlings, seeds, and/or food
- Administrators will recognize the benefits and self-sufficiency of the seed program through access to consistent reporting of qualitative and quantitative impact
Working to develop healthy, responsible, food-savvy individuals
Growing one’s own food is a profound experience. Students who participate in this age-old tradition become stewards of the resources we rely on and embark on their own exploration of the natural world that sustains us. A garden provides a safe and challenging space for curiosity to blossom and innovations to be sown. Studies have shown that gardening in school enhances students’ lives in many ways: increasing self-esteem, helping students develop a sense of ownership and responsibility, fostering relationships with family members, and increasing parental involvement (Alexander & Hendren, 1998).
While the garden reminds us that we depend on plants and seeds for our survival, it also serves as an invitation for cooperation with the people around us, from connecting us with our local community to realizing our place in our global civilization. Elements of multicultural education are seamlessly woven into the act of growing one’s own food. In recognizing the diversity of crops that have developed from their early domestication by diverse cultures worldwide and considering the unique traditions associated with those crops, students will build a global perspective of the food and art created in the garden.
It is impossible to avoid thinking about what you put into your body when you grow your own food. It may seem obvious but after gardening, students have shown increased knowledge about nutrition, plant biology, and ecology (Pothukuchi, 2004). The ownership and excitement of seeing their food grow from a tiny seed to a luscious fruit undeniably promotes higher fruit and vegetable consumption. Positive attitudes toward plant-based food are important for developing healthy eating habits. Studies have shown that these good habits are important predictors of higher fruit and vegetable consumption as adults, contributing to prevention or delay of chronic illness (Heimendinger & Van Duyn, 1995). Wholesome nutrition is tied to educational success as well by aiding in cognitive development, strengthening focus, and preventing absenteeism by supporting overall health.
Striving to enhance classroom learning
Seed-to-School activities, from seed starting to seed saving, are readily applicable to the work being done in the classroom. Students can see the entire plant life cycle and gain powerful insights into what plants need from germination to seed production. Considerations for seed saving such as self-pollinating crops vs. cross-pollinating crops can also provide a unique basis for understanding plant parts and their functions. Key life science concepts are made accessible and evident, with many opportunities for inquiry-based learning and scientific method investigations. Planning, recording, and analyzing gardening and seed saving activities provide tangible functions of basic math skills, which can be modified for various learning levels. Many fiction and non-fiction books are available on the topic, and unique research projects as well as creative writing assignments can be designed around the wide breadth of garden-related concepts to incorporate language arts. The facets of multicultural education mentioned earlier can provide a fluid integration of social studies; perhaps, for example, through learning about the debilitating destruction of agricultural systems in times of war, or what staple crops were relied upon by ancient civilizations being studied.
“A Handful of Seeds,” a publication from the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center, beautifully summarizes the scope and flow of seed-to-seed education:
“For example, you can plant seeds from one or two crops; tell the cultivation story, linking it to curriculum; observe and care for these growing plants; cook using them; save seeds on the plants; compost the inedible parts of the plants to enrich the garden soil; and study how this crop is grown and marketed commercially. Next season, plant the very seeds that your students saved and start the cycle over again in a new class, with the year-to-year continuity becoming another part of the cycle.” (Poles, 2008).
Not only is the garden suitable for applying classroom concepts, it also provides opportunities for higher quality learning: students tend to learn more and better when they are actively involved in the learning process, as they are when participating in tangible, applicable garden activities (McCormick et al., 1989).
The garden is also conducive to inclusive education. Teachers may select from a variety of teaching styles to implement in or alongside the garden, including direct instruction, collaborative learning, inquiry learning, and project-based learning. The myriad learners in a classroom may all find the garden a suitable learning environment. Kinesthetic learners, for instance, who struggle with visual or auditory instruction, construct knowledge in the garden by actively getting their hands dirty. Studies have also shown that children with learning disabilities who participated in garden activities developed enhanced nonverbal communication skills, gained awareness of the advantages of order, learned how to participate in a cooperative effort, and formed positive relationships with adults (Sarver, 1985).
Ready to sow the future of our food and seed systems
When agriculture was the occupation of a large portion of the population and the home was a producer as well as a consumer, farmers and communities saved their own seeds. Each year they would choose to save the best of their tomatoes, their corn, every crop they grew, and make sure that the next year they would have more of the best genetics that they could harness. This lead to selection of plants that were well suited to where they were growing them. The plants that had the greatest yields, looked the best, tasted the best, and were the healthiest were under the pressure of their environmental conditions – any with genetics that fell short did not thrive in that environment and therefore would not be saved for the next year. Today, the number of environments that crops are selected under has diminished, as has the number of mouths that evaluate them. We have relinquished our control of the plant genetics that sustain us into the hands of individuals searching for traits that are important to them. This includes various disease resistances crucial for growing the crop, uniformity, ability to harvest mechanically, long shelf life, etc. Missing from that list is flavor. Some professional plant breeders honestly aim to breed, for instance, for tomatoes that could break a windshield, so that if any incidental damage happens to them in harvest or otherwise, they will still appear red and shiny, and tasteless as ever. No wonder we struggle to increase fruit and vegetable consumption in children and young adults. Many of them haven’t tasted the true potential of a garden-ripe tomato that was bred for mouthwatering texture and sweetness.
Imagine the variety of crops we would have if the aforementioned level of seed saving were done today. Perhaps if this upcoming generation learns to grow their own food once again and save their own seeds, we can someday make that a reality once more; our crops that are plagued by diseases in our unique local growing conditions will stay one step ahead and survive through the season, our fruits will be juicier, our plants will be laden with vegetables, and we will see flavors that the world today cannot dream of. On top of all of that, we will be acutely aware of where our food comes from, and where the seed that grew into that food comes from, because its source will be our home.
Hi! I’m Myra Manning, and I am currently the coordinator for the Maine School Garden Network. After studying Agricultural Sciences, concentrating in Education and Communication, and then working in plant breeding after graduation, I moved to Maine for a job in the Research and Development department at Johnny’s Selected Seeds. In working with seeds and devoting time to volunteering in classrooms, I created this site to share some resources and document the use of seeds in classrooms to show how seamlessly these can go together. As Mrs. Dunn from the Hall School said, “it all seemed to keep coming back to seeds!”
Thank you for reading and utilizing these resources. I hope they are of use to you, and I’d love to hear any feedback or ideas you have – contact me at email@example.com, or use the form below.